The languages category features all of our blog posts relating to languages around the world. We post on topics and news about languages and people.

Halloween: Trick or Treat!

Halloween, trick or treat!

Trick or Treat

Halloween — its Origins, History and Language

All Hallows’ Eve, a time when the dead are remembered and the veil between the mortal and spiritual realms is at its thinnest. Spirits, ghouls and fairies and other creatures from the netherworld are said to visit mortals in a night of trickery and devilry. Explore the darker depths of Halloween as we uncover the truth of its origins.

What Lies Beneath!

Halloween, sometimes spelt Hallowe’en, is a contraction and comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve: the evening before All Hallows’ Day. Een or E’en was a shortening of even (for evening) — quite typical in Scotland! Known by many other names like Hallow’s Eve or All Saint’s Eve, the words date back to 1745 and its roots are predominantly Christian. Although some scholars have stated that it has more Celtic pagan origins than Christian.

Albeit, etymologists found a similar phrase for All Hallows’ Day in Old English (‘ealra hālgena mæssedæg’ or ‘all saints’ mass-day’), it wasn’t first seen again until 1556.

While some people attend vigils at graveyards and light candles over loved ones’ graves, children and adults alike dress up in costume as creatures from the underworld (i.e. goblins, witches, werewolves, vampires, ghouls, spectres, fairies and so forth). Knocking on neighbours’ doors in a spectacle of ‘trick or treat’ shenanigans. Most western cultures that observe Halloween are Ireland, Scotland, Britain, France, the USA, Canada, parts of Italy, Romania while China, Japan and Singapore are newcomers to the celebrations.

Trick or Treat! Give us something nice to eat

The idea of dressing up and playing trick or treat has its origins in the medieval practice of mumming. Mummer plays were seasonal folk plays performed by troupes of actors. The mummers, as they called themselves, would dress up and act out in festival-style mockery. ‘Trick’ was a euphemism for a ‘threat’. If no homeowner treated the trick-or-treaters to goodies, they would play prank or mischief…

In medieval times, local names for mummers consisted of guysers (guisers), rhymers, peg-eggers, galoshins and tipteerers. Disguised and ready for action, many mummers performed on the streets but were keen on going house-to-house or in public houses to make audiences giggle. Some guisers charged for a show!

The old revelers of Halloween would also recite verses and plays in exchange for money or food whilst carrying lanterns made from turnips, mangold or mangelwurzel to light their way in the dark evenings. The faces of ghosts were carved into them and acted as a form of protection from malevolent spirits.

It wasn’t until this custom spread to England in the 19th century that they were called jack-o’- lanterns.

Halloween became a modern tradition adopted by Americans in the early 19th century. Although the Puritan colonists of the 16th and 17th centuries knew of All Hallows’ Eve, they did not recognise it as a holiday.

With many candy companies using it as a marketing stunt to sell more, the holiday grew in popularity in the 20th century.

Pumpkins became the new turnips — they were easier to carve and their ranges of colour made them more decorative pieces. The American tradition of pumpkin carving was first recorded in 1837 and was only originally associated with harvest time. Not until the mid-to-late 19th century was pumpkin carving more specifically associated with Halloween.

What will you be mumming this Hallowe’en?

Graham,
The STAR Team
Sources: Wikipedia

Speak to 3.5 billion people, Top Ten Most Spoken Languages

Ten Most Spoken Languages

Ten Most Spoken Languages

There are an estimated 7,100 living languages in the world that are endangered. The reason for this may be that the ten most spoken languages are rapidly taking over.

These popular languages have their population sizes to thank. Some of  these languages are high in demand for reasons of commerce and trade. But what encourages people to learn a new language? People tend to learn a new language for better work opportunities, travel, social media, to meet new people, education and to better understand new technologies and sciences. Film, music and television have also played a part in encouraging some to take up a language.

What are the most popular languages around the world?

Top Ten Most Spoken Languages

  1. Chinese
  2. Spanish
  3. English
  4. Hindustani
  5. Arabic
  6. Portuguese
  7. Bengali
  8. Russian
  9. Japanese
  10. Javanese

Surprise, surprise!

You’re probably not surprised to learn that English is not in the number one spot. Nor is it the second most popular language. China, the most populous country in the world host to a whopping 1.357 billion inhabitants according to a consensus from 2013. Did you know that the Chinese language has 80,000 characters, also known as logograms?

The Spanish language, second on the list, has an estimated 470 million native speakers; thinking of South America may help imagine that it’s a possible figure.

Third on the list is English, with an estimated 340 million people speaking it as a first language. English is an official language in the United Kingdom ( its country of origin), the United States of America, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Remaining Ones

Hindustani is fourth on the list, with roughly 260 million speakers, it is spoken in India. Arabic is a popular language because it is the language of the Koran. There are 240 million speakers of Arabic. The only country in South America that doesn’t speak Spanish is Brazil. It’s the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world. Approximately 220 million people speak Portuguese as a first language. Brazil’s population was 200.4 million as of last year (2013).

  • Bengali: spoken in Bangladesh and some western Indian states, 210 million speakers
  • Russian: 150 million speakers, estimated
  • Japanese: 125 million speakers, estimated
  • Javanese: spoken in east and central Java, an island of Indonesia, 84.3 million speakers

Speak to the World

That’s a total of 3.457 billion people across the top 10 languages. Almost half the population of the planet!

Learning a new language can be fun and the rewards limitless. It has even be documented that speaking more than one language fluently can increase higher brain functions such as cognition and memory retention.

Graham,
The STAR Team

Great Scots! Scots Gaelic and English Stay Together

Great Scots! Scots Gaelic and English Stay Together

Great Scots!

Scots Gaelic and English Stay Together, Despite the Vote

Today, 18th of September, all Scottish people head to the polling stations to cast their utmost important votes. Their votes will decide the future of the United Kingdom as a whole. Will Scotland become an independent state?

Regardless or the result of the vote today #indyref, #voteyes, #voteno, both the English and Scottish languages will stay together! There will always be a Scots legacy in England.

With a media frenzy gathering pace throughout and all eyes on Scotland, we decided to look at some peculiar words in the English language that have their origins in Scottish Gaelic and Scots.

Scots Gaelic

Before we proceed, you probably noticed that we mentioned Scottish Gaelic and Scots. Aren’t they the same? Not at all. Scottish Gaelic or Gàidhlig is in the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages. It’s indigenous to Scotland. Scottish Gaelic derived from Middle Irish during the 10th to 12th centuries and thus, is descended from Old Irish. Other notable languages in the Goidelic family are Manx and Irish (no surprise there!).

Scots

Scots or Scots language is a variety of Gaelic spoken in the lowlands of Scotland and parts of Ulster (Northern Ireland). Scholars and linguistic experts have been debating over the linguistic status and social significance of Scots. Is it a language or a dialect? There is no universally accepted criteria to distinguish a language from a dialect so they’ll be arguing about it for some time to come.

The Words

Scots English Meaning
Clan (also clann) originally from Gaelic: “family”; children, progeny, offspring, even tribe
Haver / Haiver to talk in a foolish manner, to talk nonsense
Bonnie (also bonny) originally from French: “bon” meaning good; attractive, pretty, applies to both genders
Laddie a young boy; adolescent male
Lassie a young girl; adolescent female
Plaid (also plaide) originally from Gaelic: “blanket”; to fold [past participle of ply, giving to ‘plied’ based on Scots’ pronunciation]
Tweed a cloth woven in a twilled pattern

Of course, there are many other Scots words in use in English. You might even be using some of them without knowing it. Do you know any other Scots or Scots Gaelic words in English?

Graham,
The STAR Team

Clichés By The Book

Clichés, a sign of the times

Clichés: Give It To Me Straight!

A cliché (also cliche) is an expression, idea, opinion or phrase that was once considered an original metaphor, but over time became overused and unoriginal. They were used to convey a novel approach or, to some effect, explain an artistic element.

An English playwright named John Heywood, wrote a book in the 1500s: the book of proverbs, which catalogued clichés and figures of speech common at the time. These were considered original, witty and informative. Today, however, they’re tired and unwitty, but we use them nonetheless.

Clichés can often be confused with idioms (special phrasing), hyperbole (exaggerated rhetoric), metaphors (figures of speech) and similes (expressing comparison, likeness).

Nowadays, we call these overused, ready-made phrases clichés!

You’re probably trying to remember some tired clichés — the ones your  mother used regularly — explaining the repetition of daily chores, perhaps.

Clichés

  • Better late than never
  • Tried and true
  • Fit as a fiddle
  • Weak as a kitten
  • A bun in the oven
  • Dead ringer
  • A no-brainer!
  • Labour of love

Idioms

  • It’s not rocket science
  • He was pulling my leg
  • Let’s keep an eye out for her
  • The cat’s out of the bag now!
  • He threw himself at her feet!

Proverbs

  • Waste not, want not
  • Break a leg
  • The early bird catches the worm
  • Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise

Metaphors

  • The computers at work are old dinosaurs
  • She cut him down with her words
  • Waves of messages of hope were sent to the victims
  • He lay there, soaking up the sun

All the above examples may paint a clearer picture for you, but what’s the purpose of a cliché and how did they come to be?

We already know that a cliché is a phrase to express an idea. They’re also traditional in form which, due to their repetitive use in social life, have a heuristic power i.e. enabling others to learn. It has been stated among certain sociologists that clichés manage to stimulate behaviour without reflection on their meanings. To some degree, they are automated phrases used to aid understanding. A cliché can spark further cognition, emotion, volition and action.

Origin

Cliché was pulled from the French language around the mid 19th century. A cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. It’s a past participle of clicher, to stereotype. In the early stages of printing movable type, letters were placed one at a time as it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly. The word cliché came to mean such a ready-made phrase.

Graham,
The STAR Team
Sources: Wikipedia; Oxford English Dictionary; Literary Devices

The Untranslatables

The Untranslatables

The Untranslatables

Untranslatables: No English Equivalent

There are many words in the English language that were borrowed from other languages such as Latin, French, German, Spanish and so on. They are called loanwords and exhibit little or no modification at all. Although, there are many words that the English language could do with adding…

Languages are fascinating to study and there is always something new and exciting to learn about them. We have been looking at a wide array of languages and words that do not appear in a modern English dictionary.

Without further ado, we bring you a list of foreign language words for which English has no direct translation.

Language Codes Words / Phrases English Meanings
JPN Komorebi That scattered, dapple light effect that occurs when sunlight pierces the tops of trees
DEU Backpfeifengesicht A face badly in need of a fist
GEO / KAT Shemomedjamo [Lit.: I accidentally ate the whole thing]
DEU Packesel A person who carries everybody else’s luggage / bags [Lit.: Burrow]
SVE Lagom Used to describe something that is not too much or too little — just right — nicely balanced
TGL / FLIP Gigil An urge to pinch something irresistibly cute
HAW Pana Po’o The act of scratching one’s head to remind them of something they have forgotten
ITA Slampadato Addicted to tanning
NOR Pålegg All the ingredients (anything) that is put into a sandwich
ARA Ya’arburnee [Lit.: May you bury me] Asked of a loved one, so that they may not go through the hardship of being alone or dying before the other
RUS Pochemuchka A person who asks too many questions
PER Zhaghzhagh The sound one makes when they grind their teeth from either the cold or when they are angry (onomatopoeic)
DEU Neidbau A small house or shack built to annoy or frustrate one’s neighbour(s)
CZE Vybafnout The act of jumping out at someone and saying boo
JPN Aware The bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty
AKA Pelinti [Lit.: To move hot food around in the mouth] The moment you put too much hot food in your mouth, tilt your head back and move it around to cool it down
IND Mencolek To descibe having someone under one’s arm and on the opposite shoulder
CZE Prozvonit The act of calling a person’s mobile phone only to ring once, so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller their minutes / credit
SMO Faamiti The act of making a kissy sound to attract the attention or a dog or baby
IKU Iktsuarpok The act of continuously checking one’s front door to see if the people one’s awaiting have arrived yet
SSE Tartle The moment when one pauses in hesitation before they introduce someone else — forgetting the person’s name
YAG Mamihlapinatapai The act of two people looking at one another and wishing the other would do something that both want, but neither want to do
THA Greng-jai The feeling one gets when one doesn’t want the other to help because it will be a burden on them
FRA Seigneur-terraces Term for people who sit at cafés all the time and don’t buy anything
ULW Yuputka The feeling that something is crawling on one’s skin when walking through the woods
DAN Hygge The feeling to describe sitting around a campfire with friends during the wintertime
DAN Kaelling A woman who never stops nagging or yelling, especially in public places
DEU Kummerspeck [Lit.: Grief bacon] A name for the weight gained after an extended period of emotional overeating

Some of these words and their subsequent meanings aren’t anything new to us. We have all experienced something like their meanings before; we just didn’t have a specific word for them.

FYI: The word untranslatables does not exist in English. Untranslatable is an adjective, not a noun.

Know any other words without a direct English translation? Let us know…

Graham,
The STAR Team

STAR At Localization World 2014

Our team recently attended the Localization World conference at the Convention Centre in Dublin. It was an amazing conference with visitors from around the world. The event had nearly 700 attendees from the global translation industry covering some 46 countries.

STAR at Localization World 2014, Dublin

It was an amazingly multicultural event. Some 22% of the visitors were from the USA. The conference ran from the 4th through the of 6th June. The event had both an exhibition and many seminars and talks on translation, localization and technology for the localization industry.

As a leading provider of translation services and technology, STAR was delighted to be exhibiting at the conference. We had our teams from Dublin and Switzerland at the show.

Petra and Damian at Localization World 2014

Petra Singer and Damian Scattergood from STAR at Localization World 2014.

Ulrike and Petra enjoying Dublin by night

The team enjoyed a fantastic walk and night-time view of Dublin city outside the conference centre.

Petra and Ulrike at the convention centre in Dublin

Ulrike Von Salviati and Petra Singer from STAR at the Localization World conference, Dublin.

The STAR Team

Chimpanzee Language Discovered

Chimpanzee language discovered, photograph courtesy of Catherine Hobaiter

© Catherine Hobaiter

Chimpanzee Language: communicating with one another in the wild

A team of researchers from the University of Saint Andrew’s, lead by Dr Catherine Hobaiter, have translated a communication system of gestures used by chimpanzees in the wild.

In their findings, they documented 19 specific messages from one chimp to another and they discovered a lexicon of 66 gestures used within these messages. All their work has been published in the journal ‘Current Biology’.

The scientists followed and filmed a group of chimps in Uganda and observed 5,000 incidents of these gesture of communication. It was once believed that only humans were capable of deliberately sending messages or gestures to another individual. As scientists looked towards apes and chimpanzees alike, they saw the incredible similarities we share with them.

Chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to the other ape families.

Having witnessed these messages, the team of researches have come to the conclusion that, “they’re the only thing that looks like human language in that respect.” The chimps’ messages were also unambiguous and used to convey a specific feeling or meaning from one animal to the other. While other apes and monkeys are also known to understand complex information, chimps alike do not use calls or their voices to communicate.

Among all the filmed gestures, the most convincing and unambiguous were leaf clipping and a grab.

Leaf clipping
When a chimp conspicuously nibbles leaves in front of another chimp, it’s to elicit sexual attention
A grab
This is interpreted as “stop that!,” “climb on me!” or “move away!”, depending on the context, of course!

Researching the communication between great apes and chimpanzees allows evolutionary biologists to gain more knowledge on the evolutionary aspects of language and behaviour and how we [humans] evolved.

“The big message [from this study] is that there is another species out there that is meaningful in its communication, so that’s not unique to humans,” said Dr Hobaiter.

Graham,
The STAR Team
Reference: BBC News (Science & Environment)

Typoglycaemia: Word Recognition

Typoglycaemia

Typoglycaemia: Wrod Rgocintoien

In September 2003, an meme surfaced on the Internet stating:

“I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rseearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Scuh a cdonition is arppoiatrely cllaed Typoglycaemia .

“Amzanig huh? Yaeh and you awlyas thguoht slpeling was ipmorantt.”

Fact from Fiction

Not so much a research study, but based on one man’s PhD thesis that was finalised in 1976. A man named Graham Rawlinson. His work was never published: The Significance of Letter Position in Word Recognition, Nottingham University.

There was little evidence to support the main factors of word recognition and the cognitive processes behind reading written text, but roughly three dozen studies were carried out on both adults and children. It is obvious to some that we read words as a whole rather than reading letter by letter, in one’s native language, of course. Although, it has been stated, to some degree, that when one reads in a foreign language, they tend to read every letter.

Typoglycaemia

Typoglycaemia (or typoglycemia) is what’s known as a neologism, a name for a newly coined word, term, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use but, that has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Typoglycaemia is a portmanteau of two separate words: typo, typographical error and hypoglycaemia, a state of severely diminished content of glucose in the blood. We didn’t that make that up!

You can find Mr. Rawlinson’s summary of notes on his thesis on the Cambridge Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit website

Graham,
The STAR Team

Job Opening: German Project Manager

Job Opening for German Project Manager

Job Opening: German Project Manager / STAR Translation

German Project Manager — Translation Services

We are currently expanding our Dublin office and looking to hire a number of translation project managers to work with our production team.

If you have a passion for translation and want to work for one of the world’s largest translation companies, we’d love to talk to you.

For this role, we are seeking a German speaking project manager. The position is full-time.

Salary

€22,000 per annum

Responsibilities

  • Project Management
  1. Analyse and prepare files for translation
  2. Prepare word counts, budgets and translation schedules
  3. Create and send out translation kits to the translation teams
  4. Keep the project management database updated and keep track of budgets and deadlines
  5. Receive and review translations
  6. DTP work on final files and final QA checks
  7. Additional administrative tasks may be required

You will be mainly working with our teams within the STAR network. Our project management team in Dublin deals with a large number of file formats and languages. Handling many projects simultaneously, you will be responsible for coordinating their translation and the DTP components.

  • Client Relationship Management

Working directly with customers you will be responsible for the smooth and efficient progression of projects by liaising with the different translation teams and the customers, respectively. You will establish a strong working relationships with new and existing customers. STAR prides itself on its long term relationships with customers.

Requirements

  • Excellent spoken and written German ideally, where German is the first language
  • Candidates should have strong organizational skills, ability to multi-task, prioritise and work well under pressure — a strong focus on quality is expected
  • Excellent written and spoken English is required as well as excellent communication skills
  • Ability to integrate into an international work environment and work as part of a team
  • Excellent command of standard Office tools such as Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and Word
  • A good knowledge of Adobe ® Creative Suite® would be a plus
  • Knowledge of CAT-tools
  • Degree level qualification in translation
  • Experience working in a translation company

Send your CV to: Damian Scattergood, Managing Director. Email: damian.scattergood (at) star-ts.com

or

Phone: (01) 836 5614

About Us

Our Dublin centre is based in the Docklands Innovation Park in Dublin 3, close to the 3 arena. STAR is a provider of translation services into 70 languages. Founded in 2002, STAR Translation is a member of the STAR Group. We are Europe’s largest privately held translation company with a network of over 40 offices around the world. Our project management team works directly with customers and our offices around the world work on variety of translation projects.

The STAR Team

Job Opening: French Project Manager

Job Opening for French Project Manager

French Project Manager — Translation Services

STAR Translation is currently expanding our Dublin office and is looking to hire a number of translation project managers for our production team.

If you have a passion for translation and want to work for one of the world’s largest translation companies, we’d love to talk to you.

For this role, we are seeking a French speaking project manager. This is a full time position.

Salary

€22,000 per annum

Responsibilities

  • Project Management
  1. Analyse and prepare files for translation
  2. Prepare word counts, budgets and translation schedules
  3. Create and send out translation kits to the translation teams
  4. Keep the project management database updated and keep track of budgets and deadlines
  5. Receive and review translations
  6. DTP work on final files and final QA checks
  7. Additional administrative tasks may be required

You will be mainly working with our teams within the STAR network. Our project management team in Dublin deals with a large number of file formats and languages. Handling many projects simultaneously, you will be responsible for coordinating their translation and the DTP components.

  • Client Relationship Management

Working directly with customers you will be responsible for the smooth and efficient progression of projects by liaising with the different translation teams and the customers, respectively. You will establish strong working relationships with new and existing customers. STAR prides itself on its long term relationships with its customers.

Requirements

  • Excellent spoken and written French ideally, where French is the first language
  • Candidates should have strong organizational skills, ability to multi-task, prioritise and work well under pressure — a strong focus on quality is expected
  • Excellent written and spoken English is required as well as excellent communication skills
  • Ability to integrate into an international work environment and work as part of a team
  • Excellent command of standard Office tools such as Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and Word
  • A good knowledge of Adobe ® Creative Suite® would be a plus
  • Knowledge of CAT-tools
  • Degree level qualification in translation
  • Experience working in a translation company

Phone: (01) 836 5614

About Us

Our Dublin centre is based in the Docklands Innovation Park in Dublin 3, close to the 3 arena. STAR is a provider of translation services in 70 languages. Founded in 2002, STAR Translation Services is a member of the STAR Group. We are Europe’s largest privately held translation company with a network of over 40 offices around the world. Our project management team in Dublin works directly with customers and our different country offices on varied types of translation projects.

The STAR Team